How could I forget?

Trip Start Aug 20, 2009
Trip End Sep 14, 2009

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Flag of France  , Midi-Pyrénées,
Saturday, September 5, 2009

Brutal ... a 3-hour coughing fit last night, meaning I couldn't sleep until past 4 AM.  My eyes are still pretty crusty, too.  What's going on???  Showered, chiseled my eyes open, packed, and off to find breakfast.  I saw a pretty yummy-looking pastry shop yesterday nearby, and ended up there. 

Having a few hours to kill before leaving, I wandered over to the central park, and to the library, in search of some free or cheap Internet.  Unfortunately, it's closed weekends in the summer.  They definitely like their 80's music here in Andorra - many restaurants pipe it out on to their terraces.  I returned to the pension to pick up my backpack, and headed over to the bus station to buy my ticket.  I could probably buy the ticket just before boarding, but didn't want to risk having the tickets sell out, and getting stuck in Andorra another day.

I grabbed lunch before hopping aboard, and was surprised to see that it was actually only a little shuttle bus, as I expected hordes of people on a mass exodus from this boring little town.  Sitting on the bus, I couldn't believe that I had forgotten two very important things about France - that both its language and its mademoiselles are very beautiful.  How could I forget???

A mademoiselle sitting across the aisle from me couldn't figure out how to recline her seat, and asked me in French how to do so.  Actually, I didn't understand a word she said other than "s'il vous plait?", I only heard beautifully melodic French sounds flow out of her mouth, but her gestures indicated what she was asking.  My only response was "Uh ... ici ...", pointing to the lever.  Had I remembered that French mademoiselles were so beautiful, I would have put some effort into re-learning a bit of French before arriving. 

It was about a four hour ride to get to Toulouse, and I was itching to get off the bus and walk around.  The area between the bus/train stations and the city centre is a bit dodgy, but there's a great bustle and energy as you approach the old town.  Toulouse was quite busy at this hour (it was nearing that golden hour I always talk about that happens in Spain), and I quite liked what I saw so far. 

Again, Toulouse is one of those places on the trip that has a reason behind the visit - about five years ago when I tried to re-learn French before going to Paris for the first time, I enrolled in a French class.  One of the chapters in the text book had a fake tourism ad for Toulouse, and it seemed interesting, so here I am!

At the hotel, the attendant Gonzalo, was actually Chilean, and a really great guy.  Another opportunity to practice Spanish!  I asked him for a restaurant recommendation, and he told me he couldn't really recommend any - most of the good restaurants are very expensive, and the wait staff are snobby, and the cheaper restaurants are nothing special.  I joked "So should I just buy something to eat from Monoprix?", to which he responded "I can't recommend that either." (Monoprix is a Wal-Mart like grocery store chain in France).

Over to Rue du Taur, in search of dinner - it's a street frequented by students, and since Gonzalo couldn't give me a recommendation, I figured I'd go cheap and dine here.  One of the cheapest of sit-down meals you can get in France is a crepe, and I picked Creperie du Taur.  It wasn't as busy as the other creperies, so that suggested the other places were better - unfortunately, Creperie du Taur was the only place where I could get a seat outside.

Positively stuffed after dinner, I went for a stroll through some deserted side streets, until I heard the sounds of jazz, drawing me closer and closer to its source.  I've found that a single experience can make or break one's perception of a place, and this jazz definitely made my experience in Toulouse.  Tucked into a little courtyard near Place St. Pierre was a jazz concert, and the only cost was a donation at your discretion.  I only stuck around for two songs, but these guys were amazing - one song had a distinct Spanish feel to its melody.  If you're so inclined to find out more, the band was named Aquero.

Continuing my stroll, it was obvious that Toulouse is just as advertised, and has an incredible student buzz.  Countless students were hanging out down by the river, either on bar terraces, or sitting on benches and the grass, sipping wine.  Toulouse has a great vibe ... almost a Spanish vibe, in fact!
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